Councillor calls for £186,000road repairs to be delayed
RESIDENTS living around Shap, Orton, Hardendale and Tebay face disruption due to “essential” major roadworks.
From Monday, contractors for Cumbria County Council start a two-week highways repairs project on the B6261 which links the A6 at Shap to the M6.
The £185,700 scheme starts with a single lane closure for the first week, with traffic lights in place, followed by a full road closure for five days starting on 26th February, the council’s local committee for Eden was told. The project also involves repairs to the junction of the B6261 turn-off for Orton.
Neil Hughes (Lib Dem, Eden Lakes) said the works would affect residents, Westmorland services staff, Tata Steel, Kendal College bus users and the 106 bus service.
He said it was “unfair” that seven residents in Hardendale — the hamlet near the southbound side of the M6 at Junction 39 — should have to use the M6 as a diversion.
Mr Hughes said residents would use shortcuts along a number of unsuitable back roads. “The official diversion during the closure is via the M6 junctions 40 and 38, which are 10 miles in either direction. However, lots of traffic goes to Shap, Orton and Tebay via the B6261 and needs to use that section of road,” he said.
“During the closure, both routes will be simultaneously closed. The recommended diversion is to go up to Penrith but it is a heck of a long way round. It is possible to go via a back route, via Crosby Ravensworth, but highways are not allowed to advertise this because it’s a route of lesser calibre.”
Mr Hughes said an alternative route was via the Shap Wells Hotel which involved using the A6 and then cutting through the hotel’s grounds to join the B6261.
“It’s a private road and it’s not fair, in my view, on the hotel, for all this traffic to be redirected through there,” he added. He called on the Conservative-run committee to defer the works until it could be satisfied everyone potentially affected had been notified.
Helen Fearon (Con, Penrith West) said the committee did not have the power to defer the project and suggested it could be a decision for the county council’s Labour and Liberal Democrat-run cabinet, which would not sit again before the works started.
Nigel Butcher, a county council highways network manager, said any deferral would prolong the “essential works” and cost more money. Separate arrangements had been made for the Kendal College bus to be “escorted” through the works, and the 106 service is expected to use the private road at the Shap Wells Hotel.
Mr Butcher said: “The project is geared up to go ahead and the advanced signs have been out as planned. The first week is traffic lights and the closure is in the second week and is for five days only. If it’s deferred there’s a risk the contractor won’t be able to deliver in this financial year. There’s also a risk that if it went to the next financial year this budget would not be available to do the work.”
Mr Hughes said: “There is no solution for the residents of Hardendale and I resist the suggestion that it’s okay for them to be told to simply get on the M6 and go via Penrith or Kendal to do their shopping, which is their only option.”
Mr Butcher said when planning roadworks, the council went to a “great deal of thought” and closures were a last resort. “Unfortunately, with some of these roads in rural areas, the geometry of the roads doesn’t allow works without closures,” he said.
“We are restricted by road widths and accessibility. You also have to consider the safety of the operatives doing the works. The purpose of providing the advanced notice is so that local residents can make alternative arrangements.
“There are local roads people can use but unfortunately we can’t sign those as being part of the diversion and can’t encourage people to use them. There is going to be disruption and we’ve worked with the local member, Mr Hughes, and businesses to accommodate them as far as possible. We’ve done all we can do.”
The committee rejected Mr Hughes’s proposal to defer the roadworks, with four against, two in favour and one abstention.